Saturday, June 10, 2006

Diplomacy of a kind

Just like the "Taekwondo diplomacy", there is also something called, the "cell-phone diplomacy". Last year, one of the biggest mobile phone companies in South Korea, 'Anycall', put together extraordinary and ambitious efforts to produce TV commercials aiming to promote not just its products but also the unification of the two Koreas. It brought about an occasion where, for the first time ever, a North Korean 'celebrity', together with a South Korean one, was casted as the main model. When I first saw the commercial, I was very surprised and also skeptical; skeptical with whether the North Koreans were 'real', including the celebrity. I was living abroad and did not hear much news about the commercial and so just took it as yet another 'fictionalized' situation for TV. When I found out that the whole thing was real(as in, they are really North Koreans), filmed in China, I was rather taken aback. I remember thinking out loud, when did the two countries become so 'close' to make such a commercial, also being shocked at the fact that North Korea actually allowed such a thing. Basically, I realized I had been way too ignorant with issues of my own country.

You can see the clip here. It is very obvious with the message it's sending.

Also, on the discussion of how different the two Koreas are, this clip emphasizes a lot of those differences; starting from the appearance of the two representive celebrities, what they are famous for etc. I think that the makers of this commercial may have brought out those differences more strongly than was neccessary, acknowleging the fact that we are very different and trying to convey that even though we are this much different we can still be one, using comments that emphasize familiarity and oneness; the slogan being "One voice/echo".

Is such a diplomatic tactic effective?
I think so, to a certain degree. Although I do not know if the commercial was ever shown in the North, it does bring close the issue of North Korea to the general population in the South, at least, for a while and 'superficially' and it does reflect a level of development in the relationship of the two sides. However, we saw in the film JSA, the soldiers do get along very well over 'superficial' issues, not seeming so different to each other. But when serious, fundamental issues were put on the table, we also saw the sudden tension, a dramatic change in the atmosphere; they all froze, seized in fear and shock.


Berkin Aslan said...

I don't know that I share your optimism regarding the effectiveness of idealistic commercials in reuniting the Korean Peninsula. As you've pointed out, more than likely, this commercial was not aired in North Korea, and even if it was, the people able to watch it are most likely afluent elites who would much rather prefer to maintain the status quo. It is common knowledge that Kim's government decides what the North Korean people are exposed to(CIA Factbook only cited 4 broadcast stations), and in the case of reunification, I am inclined to believe that they would address the subject on their own terms. Nevertheless, while it certainly can do no harm, I would assume that messages such as this commercial, filmed in China, will or did not have a substantial effect on either population, especially in the North.

Ji-young Park said...

Of course such a commercial did not and will not have a 'substantial effect'(if by this we mean, creation of mass movements for reunification etc.) on either population. What I did say though was that it did act to bring the issue of North Korea close to the South Koreans, no longer dealing the situation of the two sides in just political, economical arenas, but also incorporating it to everyday scenes such as through TV commercials. What this then reflects, in my opinion, is that there has been a change of tide in relations between the two Koreas; or to be more precise, in the South government's attitude toward North Korean relations.
We witness such changes not only through such overtly idealistic TV commercials, but also through increasing efforts to communicate with the North; setting up trips to the Diamond Mountain, inter-Korean economic talks, cross-border trains etc.
All these, big and small, constant embarks to better the relation with the North, the people of the South are not only maintained to constantly be reminded of the North, but also somewhat become familiarized with the issue on a more personal level.
Then the question that also needs to be dealt with is, to whom and what are these efforts by the South Korean government geared towards? Is it an effort targeted towards those increasing members of the South population(especially the youth) who are becoming pessimistic and unconcerned about the reunification; who are worried with economic strains that is going to be put upon the South once the two sides become united again? Or is there any relationship between such trends and growing hostility towards the US government?
Questioning the intention, the motive then may be more ‘sufficient’ than questioning the effects of such events.

austin kim said...

The desire to reunite the two Koreas has been a shared sentiment ever since the Korean peninsula was divided into two states. I have to respectfully disagree that the clip focuses on the differences, but rather empahsizes the similarities and the shared sense of longing for the two koreas to become one. The differences shown on the video are merely materialistic.(clothing, technology)When looking at the style of dress, it is clearly different but yet it is still korean not foreign. I believe it points out that Koreans as a people are divided politically but still share fundamental characteristics as Koreans in terms of history, culture, and traditions. I believe whatever differences that are perceived have been overcome to a degree today and can be overcome in the near future. After watching the clip I realized that we are ultimately one people.